Seniors Catch a Break, Are Less Susceptible to Flu

July 31, 2009

Until last week, the A(H1N1) flu virus had not claimed the lives of any senior citizen living in Costa Rica, according to official records here.

Although the virus seems to target individuals with weakened immune systems, people over 65 years of age were escaping the death tallies and not registering infection in medical testings.

A 75-year-old man with Parkinson’s disease is the first senior citizen in which the virus was a factor in the death.

But the phenomenon of apparent immunity still persists among older populations. “Senior citizens have a lower risk because they have built up defenses after so many years of life,” said José Angel Córdova, Mexican health secretary, who was in Costa Rica this week for the Tuxtla Summit in Guanacaste.

In the most recent age tally of confirmed cases provided by the Costa Rican Health Ministry, people over 50 years of age represented a mere 3 percent of flu infections. The most vulnerable age group seems to be in the 10-to-19-year-old population. That group represents 13.5 percent of the cases; followed by 20-to-29-year-olds, representing 11.9 percent of the cases.

The death toll in Costa Rica surged to 21 this week and confirmed cases of the flu climbed to 668. Health officials are urging heightened caution as the virus moves into its peak period.

Officials cancelled this weekend’s Romería, Costa Rica’s largest religious event, hoping to stem transmission of the virus (TT, July 24). And they’ve also issued a call to schools and workplaces to send any sick people home.

In a recent press release, the Health Ministry cited Section 155 of the General Health Law that “prohibits persons infected with diseases from attending schools, work and recreational areas during the period of transmissibility.”

–Chrissie Long

 

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